Putting Together the Puzzle: Judy Blume and the Writing Process

The amazing JUDY BLUME was a surprise guest at the 40th anniversary SCBWI Conference this summer! What a treat! She sat down with SCBWI President Lin Oliver to talk shop, and all us attendees got a little insight into the brilliant Blume and her writing process.

Judy Blume’s Thoughts on Her Writing Process:

Typewriter vs. Computer:

  • Before computers she used to write through a first draft (start to finish). She’d get the draft done. But with a computer she doesn’t do that anymore. Now she can go back and keep revising. That’s bad in her opinion. It was better before when she’d go through a whole draft first.
  • When she wrote on a typewriter she would do five drafts and then send it to her editor.

On  Writing First Drafts:

  • “I’m a terrible first draft writer! I’m a reviser!”
  • The first draft is about finding the pieces to the puzzle. The second draft is putting it together. And you go on from there.

On Revision:

  • She likes to print out and scribble all over her drafts with a pen.
  • It took her 23 drafts to write the book “Summer Sisters”. She didn’t feel like she knew what she was writing. It took her three years to write and it was so painful she said “I’m never doing this again.”
  • She says she’s never really understood the creative process, but she has enough faith (after 40 years) that it will come to her again.

On Plotting:

  • “I’m so sucky at plot! It’s not how the story comes to me.”
  • Her son says she’s the least analytical person he knows.

How to Start a Book:

  • When she gets an idea she lets it percolate for a long long time before writing.
  • She says she knows she will start a book on the day something different happens. Sometimes she has to write pages and pages and pages before that moment and the real book starts.

When You Know It’s Working:

  • “I love it when I laugh out loud. I cry a lot. If I’m writing a sexy scene and I’m not turned on it’s not working!”
  • The stuff that’s gonna work is what’s coming from deep deep inside.

Judy Blume is one of the most widely read authors of juvenile and teen fiction. Her many books include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever, The Fudge Series, and Just as Long as We’re Together. Her novels have exceeded sales of 80 million and have been translated into 31 languages.

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